Can you please give us a brief Introduction to Akara and your journey so far?

I am co-founder and Chief Robotics Officer at Akara. Akara is a spin-out from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Our goal is to help hospitals make more efficient use of space and staff through the use of robots and AI. We’ve developed robots that can decontaminate rooms faster than is possible using current methods and using a fraction of the staff effort that is currently needed. Before Akara, I worked as a data science consultant and held engineering roles at an AI start-up and at a digital marketplace. 

What is your typical day?

My typical day can differ drastically depending on which phase of development we are going through. For example, all this week I am on-site at a partner NHS hospital in the UK preparing for a deployment. Here, my day could range from speaking with hospital staff and figuring out the best way it can fit around current workflows, to writing software that allows our robot to autonomously navigate and disinfect target areas of the hospital. When I am working from the Akara office, a lot of my time is spent writing code and managing our software team.  

Could you also tell us about Stevie?

Stevie was a robot we worked on before we set up the company. It was a social robot that we built to act as an aid to care workers in retirement communities where staffing levels are often very low. Stevie could take care of basic tasks while also being a friendly companion to older adults, which would free healthcare workers to spend more time with residents and in areas where they are needed most. 

You spent some time living with the clients of a retirement home in the US - what were your main take aways’?

In the Summer of 2019, we deployed the Stevie robot in a retirement community in Washington DC. We learned a lot about the adoption of robotics within the older adult population during this time. While we were initially unsure about how the robot would be received, we found the community to be generally very open to embracing new technology. We were particularly pleased to see that a number of people within the community living with dementia or some form of cognitive decline found interacting with a robot to be a comforting experience. Other residents in the community took part in games (like bingo or quizzes) that Stevie ran, or reading groups, where Stevie would read to residents or ask them questions about themselves and their day. Since they no longer needed to personally manage these activities, staff were able to spend more time delivering individualized support to the residents that needed it most. 

How do you see the development of robotics in healthcare?

I believe that robotics will fundamentally change how we provide healthcare. The World Health Organization estimates that there will be a shortage of 15 million health workers by 2030. It's clear we need ways to enhance this workforce, and harnessing new technologies, including robots, offers a scalable and cost-effective way to do this. 

What are the obstacles or challenges?

Technology adoption can be especially slow in healthcare, especially in applications that involve multiple stakeholders and have implications for patient safety. To overcome these challenges, we’ve adopted a user-centered approach from the beginning, working closely with clinicians and environmental services staff to ensure that the technology is easy to use and can be integrated easily within daily workflow. Additionally, we’ve worked in collaboration with several universities to validate the efficacy of the technology, which gives us critical data necessary to validate our claims. 

What is the common characteristic of the team at Akara?

Working at a startup can be challenging, and being successful requires resilience and teamwork. I’m thankful to say that these are two characteristics that our founding team have in abundance.  

What are a few different key values held by the team at Akara ?

One of the key philosophies we hold at Akara is that achieving our vision will require all hands on deck. We understand that what we are trying to build and implement is difficult and requires everyone to chip in and help. There is no place for egos.

What are you most proud of?

I'm really proud of what we are building, I know that's a cliché but it's true. When I see how beneficial our decontamination robots and technologies are to hospitals, and how they could help make hospitals treat more patients, it makes me very proud.

We spoke with Marzena Kulis, Managing Director, Johnson & Johnson MedTech, Middle East and MISSA.

You are one of very few women in such a top position, in a rather difficult region, where there are not that many female executives. Can you share with us what helped you, and what led you here?

This is probably due to several factors, first of all: the baggage of ambition, courage, and the right to pursue a professional career, which I have carried with me since childhood – I definitely owe this to my mother. I’ve always been driven to do something interesting, exciting, and rewarding. Also, I learn the most from people who are different to me, who come from other cultures, other business sectors, or differ significantly from me, for example, in age. This enabled me to become convinced that diversity is so very important – I have a deep respect for it and see it as a business fundamental.

It is also important that I work in a company which is very open and supports diversity. The presence of such companies in the Middle East instigates and encourages others to follow best practice in business and leadership imperatives and fundamentals, including diversity. It is still difficult to talk about a trend here, as it still may be in developing stages, but I observe a great desire for a change.

Do you consider yourself to be a part of this change?

Immediately after arriving in Dubai I was elected to the Management Board of the MedTech Companies Association – MECOMED. I also received the Forbes Award for the Most Influential Woman in the Middle East, which gave me significant exposure to both the business world and the wider public sphere. I am now invited to various meetings and I participate in many round-tables, where often I am the only woman at the table, but the message is spreading around the region and I am sure that something is slowly changing.

Can we somehow influence circumstances to make women's careers easier, to enable them to succeed? I am not talking just about the Middle East, but in a more general way.

This is a very important question, and as usual, there is no simple way to address this problem, but it is through embedding a culture of diversity within organizations. It must be processed and consistent. Culture builds powerful organizations.

It is worth noting that at the entry level we have a balance between women and men. We build inspiring development programs, including those focused only on women, but it takes many years for those talents to reach the managerial level, and even more to reach the executive level – unless, of course, it is someone exceptional in terms of performance, leadership, and commitment. Men climb faster, they have time to devote themselves entirely and fully engage. At the managerial level it’s 30% women and 70% men, at executive level the ratio is even worse.  Mobility, courage, and openness are necessary to make a career, and women are not so eager to practice those, or at times feels enabled to do so. Also, and all too often, they can be all discouraged by their managers or partners. As I said, building ambition and courage at a very early age plays a significant role, and you need the enabling and safe space to cultivate it.

Do you think a gender balance quota, regulations and targets in the EU will affect this?

I am not a big fan of regulations which tell us how to run the business, but as you can see, we did not make much progress the other way. So, I think that is an important step and probably necessary, but it is also important to change the mindset at the executive level. It is important is to teach top managers “inclusive & authentic leadership”.

What does that mean?

AUTHENTIC means: “You walk the talk”, you build the trust, you treat your people with respect.

INCLUSIVE means: you are open to different ideas, you learn from your people, you reflect on their point of view, even when and if you do not initially agree, however you still encourage them to be a significant part of important business decisions. It is when you are not biased.

In our company, every VP has a KPI related to increasing diversity as part of their business goals – our assessment of leadership skills depends on it. I have noticed huge progress in this area since this model of appraisal was introduced. At the moment, we are focused on strengthening our talent pool.

I have “exported” a lot of women from my region to the EU and to the USA to develop them further. Having said that, perhaps I didn’t focus enough on acquiring new talents externally – I didn’t close the loop. You have to develop what you have, as well as being proactive and rather aggressive at points, in searching for female talent and inviting them to join your organization.

Some say “the quotas” lead to hiring women who may be "weaker" candidates than their male counterparts?

So what? Our role is to support them to grow even if it is a stretch for them.  We can’t be afraid of mistakes, they will happen just like they do when hiring men. It is the part of the game. I believe that if we want to change something we have to start at home with our children: teaching girls that they have right to be ambitious and teaching boys to appreciate that. We also have to focus on building a culture of openness and inclusiveness. If quotas will accelerate this process, we will all benefit from it, not only women.

On this first anniversary of the Ukrainian war, doubtless we will all pause to reflect on the suffering experienced by the people of Ukraine.

Friisberg, as a firm and a multinational family, stands shoulder to shoulder with Elena, our Partner and her team in the Kyiv office.

She has bravely withstood all that Russia can throw at her, and her family.

These are Elena's thoughts, on this day, after 12 months at war:


A year has passed since that terrible moment when I woke up to the sounds of explosions. But the most difficult task, as it turned out, was to wake up my relatives and say the word, 'War'.

Parts of Kyiv look normal on the surface, but daily we hear air raid sirens. There are now few children in the city because so many have been displaced with their mothers or grandparents living elsewhere in Ukraine, or outside the country. The toll of the human suffering has been staggering – thousands have been killed and more than 8 million Ukrainians have left.

People in Ukraine say that your life is divided into 'before' and 'after’ - and it is true.

We have all changed during this year, but we are not broken and we believe in Victory. It keeps us going.

Ukraine will continue to defend the unarguable fact that it belongs within Europe. We uphold the values, rights and freedoms that underpin Western civilization.


One day the war will be over.

The Friisberg family looks forward to holding a Partner Conference in what will again be a free Kyiv, as capital of a sovereign Ukraine.

Do we need laws to tear down the “Glass Ceilings”?

A few days ago, on November 25, 'World day for Violence against Women', all the media and social networks reported the gruesome numbers of femicides committed in the last year (more than 100 women killed since the beginning of 2022 in Italy alone) and the chilling videos of what happens to Iranian women - and in the rest of the world.

During the other 364 days of the year, the news that shocks with impressive stories and images is still accompanied by the sensation caused by the election of a female Prime Minister (last but not least, the election of the Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni ), while the appointment of the new Rector of the Milan Polytechnic fades almost into the background.

Donatella Sciuto, one of the 50 most influential Italian women in technology with a respectable curriculum vitae, dotted with important positions that could only lead her to very high goals, has been elected to lead the prestigious Italian university. There was talk of another "glass ceiling" being broken.

The same phrase was used recently by Ursula von der Leyen to give the green light from the European Parliament to the Directive on Women on Boards of Directors.

By the end of June 2026, all large companies listed in the European Union will have to reserve at least 40% of Non-Executive Director posts and 33% of total Director posts to women. This consensus comes 10 years after the European Commission's proposal and on which the current President commented: “The glass ceiling that prevented women from accessing top positions in companies has been broken. It's a truly historic and moving moment."

But is it still necessary to 'guarantee' with legislative provisions the access of women to institutional positions (the quotas raised in politics) or to the top management of a company of any kind? Wouldn't it be enough simply to recognize the merit, the careful preparation, the experience gained, the performances obtained as it happens when it is a man aspires to certain positions?

We certainly think that it would be more important and necessary to 'protect' women's lives with more restrictive legislative measures aimed at defending them from the harassment they suffer in many areas of daily life, from work to family.

In conclusion, it is important to make women autonomous and to recognize their independence, but it is essential to protect the freedom with which they decide to live. Only then, in our opinion, will the "glass ceiling" really be broken.

We make gender balance our business - and we want to make it everyone else’s business too.

Our own Diversity & Inclusion gives us a huge and sustainable advantage over our competitors. Gender parity is vital to any workplace. Not just because it's a laudable goal; it simply makes bottom-line business sense.

It is also the backbone of our innovation. We know that our multiplicity of perspectives sparks creativity, and helps us to spot and seize new opportunities. It also encourages us to always challenge stereotypes.

We understand that our diversity is integral to our success. It enables us to understand the unique needs of our clients and find innovative ways of addressing those needs.

Gender diversity helps us to attract and retain talented women. No company can afford to ignore 50% of the potential workforce and expect to be competitive in the global economy.

We know that only the highest-performing teams, those with different opinions, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds will ultimately succeed in the global marketplace. We encourage different viewpoints, ideas, and market insights, which enables better problem solving, leading to superior performance.

We make sure our teams have a diversity of genders, as well as backgrounds and ethnicities. But we know that hiring women, transgender, or nonbinary people into our workplace isn’t enough. - we empower our teams to not only reach but exceed their full potential.

We welcome diversity - it is essential to how we operate and how we see our future.

How important are sponsors in the careers of women?

And are female managers committed supporters of women?

In my conversations with female managers, I like to ask the women whether they have actually received support over the course of their careers. Many confirm this by saying that it couldn't be any other way: you need a manager who recognises your potential and pushes you forward, or delegates new tasks and ultimately promotes. And in every new team and / or department it is important to make contacts again and ideally find sponsors. In the best case, it is possible to establish a good relationship with board members and managing directors, who are also successfully following their path and promoting and developing potential. Leadership programs for young talents also help to gain visibility, but such programs are not available everywhere.

Very few women say they made it without a sponsor. They also recognise that further development, with support, would have meant fewer detours and would have been faster. In most cases the sponsors are male. This may be due to the fact that there are fewer women than men in management.

But the question also arises, to what extent do women actually support other women?

In the interviews I have experienced two “extremes”:

On the one hand, there are women for whom, the quota is (unfortunately) a necessary intervention by the legislature in order to correct past mistakes. It is very important to them to support other talented women and to be available to them as mentors - even keeping lists of potential female executives to promote.

Then there are women who do not even want to be associated with the “gender issue”. They neither want to be a quota woman, nor do they want to attract attention through the special promotion of female executives. They are of the opinion that only experience and knowledge should be deciding factors regarding promotion.

Does that coincide with your observations?

How do “quota women” feel in companies? Do we see legislative intervention as an opportunity for all women to bring change in the male-dominated boardrooms?

Meltem Ay, Principal

Changes in CFO role

The future is anything but predictable and having a strong finance leader is crucial for any organisation as the CFO most directly contributes to a company’s financial health and resilience.

In the times of the current pandemic, CFOs are assuming a greater role and are likely to hold onto those greater responsibilities in the future.

What are the key competencies and skills required from future CFOs?

While every search is unique and there is no universal advice to finding the right CFO, these are the most sought-after attributes:

Strategic mindset

To serve as a right-hand of the CEO, CFOs need to be able to focus on shaping strategy, transformation and scenario planning. Today’s CFOs are responsible for much more than finance, they often oversee multiple functions from IT, Legal, Real Estate to Supply Chain. Control and compliance is not enough, companies need a strategic CFO who can look at the business through the windshield, rather than the rearview mirror.

Ownership mindset

CFOs must focus on protecting the bottom line but also are expected to view the financial performance through an ethical lens to ensure sustainability and value creation.

Adaptivity and openness to innovation

Digital skills and adopting new technologies has become priority, not just “nice to have”. CFOs need to have solid knowledge of technology and how to use it to both advance the business and protect it against cybersecurity and data privacy risks. Coping with rapid changes and decision making despite uncertainties are must haves.

Communication skills and leading with empathy

Though some CFOs have impressive technical backgrounds, that is not a key to success. In the past, CFOs might have been focused on communicating with investors and shareholders. Today, they have to manage remote teams, they deliver messages of company situation and prospects to all employees, customers, suppliers and the community. The pandemic is proving that ‘softer’ leadership qualities such as empathy, compassion and reflexion are more effective than dominance and directive style. We are finding that this is helping to expand the diversity of CFO candidates.


Resilience and adaptability became more important and will remain crucial for the uncertain times ahead. Technical skills and sector-specific experience remain important but past achievements do not guarantee future success and despite the clear benefits of hiring from within the industry, our experience has shown that companies are open to look beyond their own industry to find top talent.

Mary Keane
Andrea Chládková
Partners, Czech Republic

Deutschland hinkt in puncto Geschlechtervielfalt anderen europäischen Ländern hinterher. Was meinen Sie, wo liegt unser Problem?

Ich glaube, das hat auch viel mit unserer Sozialisierung zu tun. In den 70iger Jahren brauchten Frauen noch die Genehmigung ihrer Männer, um arbeiten gehen zu dürfen. Das ist nicht einmal 50 Jahre her! Es ist bei uns immer noch weit verbreiteter Konsens, dass sich vor allem die Frauen um die Kinder zu kümmern haben. Rabenmutter ist ein urdeutsches Wort und Symbol dieses Gedankenguts. Hier findet inzwischen ein Umdenken statt. Inzwischen sind ja z. B. ein signifikanter Prozentsatz der Kolleg*innen, die in Elternzeit sind, Männer. Aber es muss konsequent fortgeführt werden; die Infrastruktur muss angepasst werden. Wir brauchen bezahlbare Krippenplätze und ein gutes Ganztagesschulangebot. Frauen müssen die Chance haben, sich nicht nur für Kinder, sondern auch für eine Karriere entscheiden zu können.

Natürlich muss auch bei den Männern ein Umdenken stattfinden, aber auch sie brauchen Unterstützung. Es muss in Ordnung sein, dass sie ihre Kinder um 17 Uhr irgendwo abholen, ohne schief angesehen zu werden. Das machen beispielsweise die Niederländer so viel besser. Dort werden keine Meetings vor 9 oder nach 17 Uhr angesetzt. Das ist viel familienorientierter!

Gerade in Führungsetagen sind wir in Deutschland sehr rückständig, was die Akzeptanz dafür betrifft, dass Familie versorgt werden muss – ob von Mann oder Frau.

Wie bewerten Sie die aktuelle Entwicklung beim Thema Geschlechtervielfalt in Führungsgremien mit Blick auf Deutschland?

Da gibt es noch viel zu tun! Es muss ‚from the top down‘ gelebt werden, in die Zielvereinbarungen der Führungskräfte einfließen und in den Köpfen der CEOs verankert sein. Das Verständnis muss sein, dass Vielfalt einen Mehrwert bringt und Andersartigkeit förderlich für Teams ist. Das geht weit über die Frage des Geschlechtes hinaus.

Worauf sollten Frauen in ihrer Karriereplanung achten, um sich auf eine Spitzenposition vorzubereiten?

Ganz wichtig ist es, sich über sein Leben klar zu werden und ein Ziel zu setzen. Was will ich? Karriere machen ja, aber zu welchen Opfern bin ich bereit? Was ist mit Auslandsaufenthalten? Die Partnerwahl ist ebenfalls relevant. Unterstützt mich mein Partner in meinen Bestrebungen?

Im Übrigen gibt es nichts, was man nicht machen kann. Ich kann auch mit Familie ins Ausland gehen! Aber ich muss meine Ansprüche anmelden, klar formulieren und sagen, ich will das. Offen sein und keine Angst haben vor Herausforderungen.

Und wo sehen Sie die größten Hindernisse?

In den Köpfen! Wir Frauen neigen dazu, einen Job oder eine neue Aufgabe nur dann anzunehmen, wenn wir über 100 % der Skills verfügen. Da sind Männer ganz anders.

Wenn ich merke, dass es in einem Unternehmen für mich nicht weitergeht, ich so nicht ans Ziel komme, muss ich neue Chancen suchen. Dazu muss ich bereit sein, meine Komfortzone zu verlassen, Gespräche mit anderen führen und vielleicht auch mal privat einen Coach buchen. Sich selbst als Priorität sehen. Vielleicht muss man mehr delegieren – beruflich wie privat. Das kann so aussehen, dass man die Kinder mal zu den Großeltern schickt, um etwas Kraft zu tanken. Sich selbst Auszeiten zu gönnen und auf den eigenen Energiehaushalt zu achten – ohne ein schlechtes Gewissen zu haben – ist wichtig.

Denken Sie, dass der Gesetzgeber weitere Schritte unternehmen muss?

Ich beobachte die Entwicklung nun seit 30 Jahren und für mich geht es immer noch zu langsam. Wichtiger als eine Quote ist aus meiner Sicht, dass die entsprechende Infrastruktur bereitgestellt werden muss. Steuerliche Anreize schaffen, wie z. B. Kindergartenunterbringung oder Ganztageseinrichtungen und volle steuerliche Absetzbarkeit von Tagesmüttern etc.

Welche Frau bewundern Sie und warum?

Nicht eine, ich habe viele Vorbilder. Amelia Earhart als die erste Frau, die geflogen ist. Aber auch andere, wie die erste Frau, die eine Hose getragen oder einen Uniabschluss gemacht hat. Frauen, die sich also in ihrer Zeit haben extrem durchsetzen müssen. Es braucht diese Vorbilder. Ich bewundere aber vor allem auch Frauen in unserer Zeit, die es aus schwierigen Verhältnissen geschafft haben, die am Ball geblieben sind, oder auch alleinerziehende Frauen, die den Alltag trotz aller Widrigkeiten stemmen und meist mit wenig Geld auskommen müssen.

Brauchen wir einen International Women‘s Day heutzutage überhaupt noch?

Ja, brauchen wir! Noch ist er nötig, aber es bleibt die Hoffnung, dass wir ihn irgendwann abschaffen können.

 Wer hat Sie inspiriert?

Meine Mutter. Sie ging vor dem Mauerbau mit einem Einkaufskorb von Ostberlin nach Westberlin und hat ihre Familie zurückgelassen. Ihren Mut habe ich sehr bewundert. Sie wusste ja nicht, ob und wann sie ihre Eltern und Geschwister wiedersehen würde. Sie wurde 1931 geboren, ging 7 Jahre zur Schule. Immer hat sie mir signalisiert, du kannst alles erreichen. Mach dich nicht abhängig.

Ich hatte auch eine Grundschullehrerin, die mir geraten hat, mich nie abhängig zu machen und auf eigenen Beinen zu stehen. Mit einer guten Ausbildung können wir alles im Leben erreichen.

Hatten Sie einen Mentor*in?

Ja. Ich war im Mentorenprogramm der Deutschen Börse. Mein direkter Chef hat mich sehr unterstützt. Später hatte ich das Glück Reto Francioni als Mentor zu haben. Von beiden konnte ich viel lernen. Mir wurde viel zugetraut, sodass ich immer in die nächste Rolle kam.

Aber auch mein Mann war mein Mentor. Er hat einen ähnlichen Background, war mir beruflich aufgrund seines Alters etwas voraus und hatte viele Situationen bereits durchlebt. Mit ihm konnte ich alles besprechen. Er hat mir mit Rat und Tat zur Seite gestanden.

Und heute stehe ich selbst gerne vielen jungen Frauen als Mentorin zur Verfügung. Das ist mir sehr wichtig! Und wer keinen Mentor*in hat, sollte sich einen suchen. Eine Person ansprechen, die man bewundert, und fragen, ob sie diese Rolle übernimmt.

Was glauben Sie, welche Fähigkeiten sind notwendig gewesen, um Sie dahin zu bringen, wo Sie heute sind?

Dass ich an mich selbst geglaubt habe! Vertrauen in sich selbst zu haben, dass man das schaffen kann, ist ganz wichtig. Aber auch Mut, Beharrlichkeit und Authentizität.

Vielen Dank für das Gespräch, Frau Gruber!

Meltem Ay
Senior Consultant, Germany

What advice can you offer to women starting their careers?

We asked two of our female Partners, both very successful management consultants...

Susanne’s answer

I have two pieces of advice for the young women starting their careers.

Firstly, make a career plan. Having been a headhunter and mentor for over 20 years, my experience has showed that having written down your expectations and dreams for your work life is of great benefit. A study from Harvard University also confirms this observation. The study was conducted in their MBA class where 3% had a written career plan, 13% had a mental career plan and 84% had no career plan. 10 years after finishing their MBA the 13% had performed twice as well as the 84% and the 3% were making 10 times as much the remaining 97% annually.

Secondly, ensure that you have a good balance between work, studies and your private life. I see many young women who have focused solely on their studies for many years, and then find it very hard to find a job afterwards. Having solely focused on their studies and good grades for so long has unfortunately made them narrowminded, and workplaces today are looking more and more for educated and interesting people with a certain degree of charisma. If you have spent all your time behind your desk, it does not give you that charisma. Prioritizing your hobbies, drinking wine with your friends and travelling, while also studying, makes you a more interesting person for your future workplace – and it also gives you a great start to creating your own network.

Lorri’s answer

Being a woman today means there is a much wider range of career options. We have young women fighting in our army, in construction - we are politicians and CEOs of global companies – there is no limit. Yet many women are still reluctant to use their voice. Remember: you are hired for a job because of your skills and talents so don’t let these get minimized by not speaking up. Your ideas, contributions and achievements are yours to realize AND to highlight, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Don’t force conversations or to become arrogant, but take those natural opportunities to talk about the work you’re doing and what you’ve achieved.

I think one of the best pieces of career advice for women is to develop a strong personal brand which together with a strong reputation can put you on the radar for exciting career opportunities.

Finally, if you're asked to do something that excites you, but that you aren't sure you're completely ready for, always say yes – you'll figure out the "how" later. The more confident and competent you appear, the more you'll be able to build confidence in your abilities in others.

Always have the confidence to try new things, or even take a lateral move to get a new perspective. Believe in yourself.

Norwegian requirement for 40% female directors has yielded better boards

Norway currently tops the European statistics for gender-balanced corporate governance, with France and the UK in second and third places. (Source: Gender Diversity Index,

Many factors explain why Norway has made great strides with equal opportunities, and gender quotas for company boards is one. Despite the progress, however, the Norwegian labour market remains very divided along gender lines. Four out of every five CEOs is a man – and nine out of 10 nurses are women.

Gender quotas on public-sector boards were introduced to Norway in 2004, and extended to private companies planning for a stock market listing (public limited companies) two years later. The requirement was that women should hold a minimum of 40 per cent of board seats, with companies which failed to meet this proportion threatened with being wound up.

Owner perspective

Norway has many small family-owned businesses. A majority of these belong to men. As a major owner, the Norwegian state also makes a clear mark on the domestic scene. Directors are almost always non-executive and largely independent of the company’s management.

Trust between owners and directors is important. Historically, owners have chosen directors from within their own network, since it is easier to trust people you already know. These networks are homogenous. Boards drawn from them generally work effectively, but risk missing out on important perspectives.

The 40% women requirement has increased the awareness of the expertise desired and the contributions directors make. This is considered a very positive consequence of the quota regulations.


The need for renewable energy, for example, has shifted huge investments from coal and oil to solar and wind power. Digitalisation has created radical changes in companies' development and the competitive position and will continue to affect all sectors.

Major changes call for non-traditional thinking, and curiosity about how other sectors overcome their challenges is particularly important along with a sense of urgency and solid understanding of financial risk. Having directors of both genders as well as different ages and backgrounds – nationally and internationally and from various sectors – will be necessary in order to widen perspectives and make the right strategic choices.

Female boardroom candidates

Holding a directorship is not a right, but an opportunity to contribute required expertise. During the first few years with gender quotas, we saw some poor solutions – female directors with a combination of high self-confidence and low relevant expertise, and enterprises which invited women on in order to fill their “quota” without wanting them to make an active contribution. Such things are rarely seen today.

Generally speaking, bottom-line responsibility and thereby executive experience are necessary to contribute effectively on a board. Norway has far more men than women in leadership roles, which means that the pool of female candidates with relevant experience remains smaller than for men.

But big variations exist between sectors. So, when putting together capable boards which also meet the need for gender balance, an overall view must be taken of expertise and efforts are needed to identify where scope exists for a good selection base.

“Younger” sectors, such as technology, media and telecom, have a more balanced gender distribution and thereby more women with solid management experience who amply provide the expertise required of a director. This contrasts with traditional industry, for example, where the pool of women with similar management expertise remains smaller.


Good boardroom contributions emerge from relevant expertise, strategic insight, understanding of roles, commitment and a personality able to exert influence and collaborate.

Some people argue that being “quota'd in” is unequivocally negative, and that quotas weaken the authority of women on the boards. We believe gender quotas ensure that highly competent women are invited to serve and give able females opportunities to contribute. If the starting point has been that male owners chose directors from networks of friends and acquaintances, the quota system has been both a necessary and an effective tool for ensuring diversity. We argue that it also ensures the best possible value creation.

In our experience, the quota rules have contributed to owners adopting a more analytic approach in assessing the board’s overall expertise and contribution. The requirement for 40 per cent women has thereby definitively made owners aware of able female directors. Our hypothesis is that the boards also end up with more capable male members.

Hild Kinder
Benedikte Stiff
Partners, Norway

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